Despite what media coverage of celebrity splits might have you think, there’s no such thing as a ‘quickie’ divorce, although the new option for No Fault Divorce due to come into effect this autumn is aiming to simplify and streamline the process. Until then, however, the options for divorce are:
- Live apart for at least 2 years (if both of you agree to the divorce) before lodging a petition
- Live apart for at least 5 years (if one of you objects to the divorce) before lodging a petition
- Lodge a petition based on behaviour, adultery or desertion, providing ‘facts’ for why you want a divorce
‘Behaviour’ is the most common ground for divorce and may cover a wide range of reasons that prove the irretrievable breakdown of a marriage. Adultery is fairly self-explanatory, while desertion is rarely used these days and still requires a period of 2 years of abandonment. Although a petition based on one of these three grounds is generally quicker than living apart for 2-5 years, you are still realistically looking at a period of at least a year, with possibly further financial issues to resolve beyond that.
If, however, you do not wish to submit a petition based on specific blame, under the current rules you will need to wait for 2-5 years to be able to lodge a petition for divorce and show that you have lived separately for this duration. (It’s worth noting that living in the same house but sleeping and eating separately may count as ‘living apart’ for the purposes of this kind of petition.)
And, of course, at the moment we also have Covid delays to contend with, which means many couples are holding off on making an application for divorce or having to wait longer to take their case to court.
The short answer is: there’s no quick solution to separation, but things may become easier and simpler with the implementation of No Fault Divorce in autumn 2021.
The plans for No Fault Divorce involve removing the need for parties to assign blame when applying for divorce. Instead, they may apply individually or jointly, submitting a ‘Divorce Order’ to state that their relationship has irretrievably broken down. The new legislation will also remove the ability for one party to contest the divorce, removing the need to wait for 5 years for disputed separation.
The new process will involve two stages – a minimum period of 20 weeks between filing the divorce application with the court and applying for a Conditional Order. This initial window is proposed to allow couples to have a period of ‘meaningful reflection’ to consider whether they want to move forward with separation. This time can also be used to make agreements about financial decisions, children’s arrangements, and other logistics. After this, if they still wish to progress the divorce, the Conditional Order will be made final after at least 6 weeks, meaning the entire process could theoretically be completed in 26 weeks (approximately 6 months).
Obviously, cases will vary depending on the complexity of a couple’s finances, living arrangements, children’s issues, and any further disputes that arise during the process, and a Final Order may be delayed while these are resolved. But the main aim of No Fault Divorce is that the element of blame is reduced, enabling couples to focus on resolving their differences and moving forward with separation amicable and respectfully, rather than getting bogged down in disagreements and bitterness. The new approach is hoped to benefit families and children in particular, by encouraging cooperation and mutual decisions.
But even if you choose to wait until the autumn to begin divorce proceedings, it’s still worth considering doing some groundwork now to speed the process up even further. Speak to a solicitor about your options for dealing with finances, assets, property, and children’s arrangements, and try your best to work cooperatively with your spouse so that you can move forward together when the time comes to submit an application. Ultimately, the fastest way to divorce is to try to come to a mutual agreement on as much as possible, as early as possible, so that there are no costly and lengthy delays down the line.
If you’re struggling to agree, collaborative out-of-court approaches such as mediation and collaborative family law might also help. Or using the time between now and autumn to seek help via couples counselling to help you work through the emotional side of your separation so that you can better deal with the practical issues later on.
In all cases, if you’re in need of personalised advice on separation and divorce, you can always speak to a professional, experienced family law solicitor at Frances Lindsay & Co to help you decide on your best path forward. We offer free 45-minute consultations to new family law clients and are here to take the weight off your shoulders with down to earth guidance and support.
Visit www.franceslindsay.co.uk for more information or contact us on 01628 623667